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Winston has come out with another super-fast fly rod series designed for sinking lines, large flies, and the largest fish on earth. The Alpha + Series replaces the Boron III Plus rods as Winston's big game series built to be durable, strong, and powerful. We're happy to report Winston has succeeded in creating a rod that's all three of those things. But how is the performance of this series different than the BIII Plus?
We'll get to that. But first, it's worth noting how this series fits into the Winston lineup. Winston has always been known for moderate action dry fly rods and they've continued that tradition in the Pure and the freshwater Air. The Alpha comes in trout sizes (the smallest rod model is a 5wt) and allows anglers to choose a fast action Winston instead of a rod geared toward feedback and feel. We appreciate Winston's creation of faster rod series that cater to anglers who need wind-cutting performance and big-bug power... and this series complements other Winston rods nicely. Read on to find out what else we like about the Alpha +.
This rod is, after all, a Winston so I'm sure you can guess how it faired in the componentry department. Winston has always made beautiful rods with the very best fit & finish and the Alpha + is no exception. The Alpha + features a Winston-green blank, chrome nanolite stripping guides, hard chrome oversized snake guides, an anodized aluminum double uplocking reel seat, and comes in a premium graphite rod tube. You can learn more about the rod's componentry and performance in the video above.
We're pretty happy to report that Winston made this series slightly lighter than the Boron III Plus. And, in fact, we all remarked on how light the rod felt in hand... a welcomed surprise for a rod designed for big water and big fish. The 8wt version weighs in at 4.2 ounces with a swing weight of 87.7 gm2. This isn't an insanely light 8wt but when you consider the power levels, Winston has found a way to make this rod lighter than most 8wts on the market with the same big-bug application and ultra-fast flex profile. Winston's BIII Plus 8wt weighed in at 4.45 ounces with a swing weight of 93.8 gm2.
This rod is a smooth powerhouse at distance. While we didn't test the Alpha + with sinking lines, we did cast some streamers at long distances and this rod propelled those large flies through the wind with ease. The Alpha + is just a pleasure to cast at 80-feet and beyond because of its lightweight design and powerful blank.
We cast the rod at 80-feet with two different lines: SA Titan and RIO Bonefish. The rod was great at carrying line in the air and landing flies accurately with RIO Bonefish. If you're someone who prefers blind casting in the surf, Titan works well for long bombs if accuracy isn't necessarily important. This rod's performance at long distances is pretty much unparalleled... we liked it that much. I wonder why there hasn't been any hype?
We were worried this rod would lack short-range performance and accuracy. Extra-fast rod models often do. The Alpha + was quite the opposite, however. The rod placed flies on target nearly every time at 40-feet. The light swing weight of the rod was apparent at these short distances and for a fly rod that has loads of power, its fast action tip directed large flies well at 40-feet. This wouldn't be a great choice for small flies and delicate presentations at close range, but Winston didn't design the Alpha + to be a Bonefish rod.
While the Alpha + definitely isn't a caster-friendly rod (at any distance), we were impressed by its performance at 60-feet, too. Timing becomes more important with this rod as you move back in distance, but if you're used to a quick casting stroke and are able to adjust your timing, this rod is highly accurate at 60-feet. This would be a great rod choice on windy days when throwing large flies to Redfish or targeting Pike/Musky in freshwater. The rod also has limitless jungle applications for the subset of anglers targeting big fish in the Amazon etc.
Timing became most important at our longest casting distance of 80-feet. While some other saltwater rods we cast during this session like the Recon 2 and the Maverick were pretty forgiving and had a wide timing window, this rod really needs a caster who can adjust his/her timing. If you can do that, this is one of our favorite rods at 80-feet... accurate, powerful, and really lightweight.
You can probably guess what I'm about to write here. A small timing window, extra-fast action, stiff butt section, and fast tip mean that the Alpha + has sacrificed feedback and feel for power and distance. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but the rod is definitely a specialized one. This isn't a great option for the intermediate saltwater angler looking for a do-it-all 8wt rod. The Alpha + is highly specialized and will appeal to a certain subset of anglers who prefer performance over feel.
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Winston built this rod to be a 'jungle rod' for big fish in fresh and saltwater. We think it has a slightly wider scope than that and would make a great rod for anyone fishing in windy environments or looking for a powerful rod at long distances. We were pleasantly surprised by the rod's light swing weight, accuracy at all distances, and quiet ability to get the job done without frills. Sadly, I think a lot of anglers will overlook this rod because of the lack of 'buzz' surrounding it.
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